Feb 08 PDP - Housing And Restoration Can Be Compatible

PDP GibraltarThe PDP totally agrees with the sentiments expressed by The Gibraltar Heritage Trust in their recent press release. The Upper Town is indeed “an untapped gem”.

The PDP therefore welcomes the fact that the GSLP/LIB Government is no longer going to add an extra floor to the blocks in the Moorish Castle Estate. This was an ill-advised scheme considering that those buildings are in such a bad state of repair with damp and humidity issues and would not have benefited with an extra floor. The other issue concerning us is that this is an area of outstanding heritage value and should be restored as such. The estate was built there in a time of great need and served its purpose but now with the present deteriorated condition of the buildings these residents should be re-housed in far better, modern, purpose built housing that befits our evolution as a people. Housing schemes require facilities close by, parking, shops, schools and open areas.

We recognise that Waterport Terraces, the Mid Harbour developments and the proposed new development recently announced by the Government have these facilities. This higher standard of living should be provided to residents of the Moorish Castle Estate. Once provided and the tenants are assisted with relocation the current blocks can be demolished exposing the view of the Tower of Homage. Certainly hundreds of thousands of tax-payers pounds should not be spent on trying to modernise these blocks of flats that are now outdated and not fit for purpose.

The PDP support the Government announcements of the new low-cost housing projects but would like to see the tenants of the Moorish Castle given priority. Many of these residents are suffering in sub-standard accommodation in a terribly run-down area and were overlooked when Mid-Harbours was allocated because they already had a home. Many of the Mid-Town flats were given to people who were not in desperate need of accommodation i.e. people who already own houses in Spain and have managed to ‘buck the system’.

Government housing in Gibraltar is not a right, it is there for the most needy in our society and we should make sure that they not only have a place to live but that it is in a decent condition. Moorish Castle residents also have the handicap that people from other estates don’t want to swap flats with them as that area is not considered desirable for many reasons: apes; noise pollution; the lack of parking and the steep walk up.

The PDP would like to see all the residents of the Moorish Castle Estate rehoused in either one of the new rental blocks under construction or in so far as is possible, accommodation belonging to Government currently lying empty in the upper town, for those residents who may prefer to stay residing in that area. Once these residents are housed in suitable dwellings the estate can finally be demolished and cleared exposing the Castle itself and other historical structures in the area and this could mark the start of the much-needed and long overdue urban renewal program to transform our upper town into a beautiful, cultural townscape benefiting residents and tourists in equal measure.

Another “untapped gem” is The Mount which is being allowed to go to rack and ruin. The PDP believe that The Mount and its gardens should be open to the public but should at the same time be a profit making enterprise. It could for example be converted into a small boutique hotel that would cater for weddings, including lodgings for the wedding party. This is yet another heritage site that would benefit both visitors and residents alike.